The Scrivener’s Forge 3 – In a Flash

This is take 3 for the Scrivener’s Forge. This months exercise is to, and I quote our host Neil MacDonald –

This time, write a paragraph that comes immediately before your character reaches the climax of their struggle. The purpose of the exercise, apart from exploring further how desire drives your character, is to learn how to build suspense. You will need to hold your reader’s attention at the same time as making them want to jump ahead.

Please visit Neil’s site to get more information on the monthly exercise. Click HERE to read other stories.

Once again this is an excerpt from the novel I am working on. Any feed back, positive or negative, is greatly appreciated. Here we go –

The violent storms that haunt the dog days of summer struck our little island yesterday. We had been blessed with bright sunny days that stretched long into the night and had come to rely on the steady but gentle winds from the west to keep the temperatures and humidity from rising to intolerable levels. Day after day we have enjoyed ideal weather. Late yesterday afternoon that changed. We were contentedly sipping cocktails on the deck when the wind abruptly shifted. No longer a gentle warm breeze, a cold wind battered us from the east. Absorbed in our lazy afternoon, we had ignored the warning signs. It was almost too late when a disquieting rumble drew our attention towards the east and the banks of roiling black clouds marching swiftly towards us.

Swallowing my panic, I belted out instructions to Bob. “You check the boat. Make sure it’s secure. Clear out anything laying on the bottom that could get blown around. I’ll get the chairs and anything I can see. I’ll check the doors on the outhouse and bunkie. You make sure the hatch on the crawl space is closed firmly. Meet you back inside.” I gave him a quick kiss, and we took off running.

By the time we had made it into the safety of the cottage walls of rain were advancing across the lake towards us. We stood by the living room window and watched Mother Nature’s fury. She sure was mad about something. Wind swirled around the island, throwing rain at the cottage from all directions. A sound like hundreds of hammers battering the roof indicated the rain had turned to hail. Penny sized ice pellets pelted the island, tearing leaves and small branches off the trees. With an ear-splitting crack and blinding flash, lightning hit a tree on the rocky outcrop twenty feet out from our eastern shore. The onslaught continued. We watched, silently, as if speaking might call attention to us and make us targets of this fury. It would have been impossible to hear each other anyway. Daylight had disappeared, replaced with a smothering darkness. Another ear-splitting crack drew my attention to the meadow outside the kitchen window. In the brief flash of light was the figure of a large man. He was drenched and tightly clutched a large bundle to his chest. He was bent forward under the burden of the weight he carried and the assault of the storm. I shrieked. Bob, stunned, turned to see what had startled me. Another flash illuminated the meadow. I slumped against the window relieved when I realized nothing was there. I fought to slow my pulse and struggled to breath when I recognized the memory I had buried long ago.

Word Count – 454

Thanks for reading.



2 thoughts on “The Scrivener’s Forge 3 – In a Flash

  1. There’s some good writing in this. but it seems out of kilter with what follows. There is a build-up in the piece – “Absorbed in our lazy afternoon, we had ignored the warning signs”. We go from the warm lazy days of late summer to sudden storm. And we expect that the storm will bring a climax, some disaster. Yet when the disaster comes, it is not a result of the storm. As we know from last month’s piece, the disaster is the sudden surfacing of a terrible memory. So the storm comes and dissipates again without wreaking any damage. And we’re left confused.

    There are two distinct ways you could handle this problem. Either you could abandon this and write a different build-up to the crisis, something the scours her scar and opens the wound again for her. Or you could rework the storm to make it both a physical storm and a spiritual metaphor for presentiment of the surfacing of the memory. This would be a much more interesting way of handling it. But to do that, you’d have to show us much more of the character’s internal life. Does the oppressive heat of the summer leave her with headaches? Does the air crackle with a perilous electricity? Is she troubled by presentiment of something terrible coming?


    1. Thanks Neil. These are great comments. It is nice to have another person’s take. I agree with you. I think the storm needs to have more impact and more of a build up to her confrontation with her mother. Thanks so much for all your insight.


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